I live in Toronto Canada. I moved here from Israel in June 1973 after having made Aliyah in 1969. My four years in Israel were among the most wonderful of my life: included medical residencies at the old Shaare Zedek and Hadassah hospitals, a year, and a half as a physician in the IAF (have reached the rank of first lieutenant), which included many helicopter forays including under fire. I came to Canada with my Israeli wife and two children with a view of returning after specialized training. As things often happen, life through a few curves and that decision was first postponed and then cancelled as my family situation changed. I worked as a geriatrician and moved up the academic latter to reach the pinnacle of my career- Vice President of Medical Services at Toronto’s Baycrest Geriatric Centre with a final rank of Professor of Medicine at the University of Toronto.
I kept my close ties with Israel as my career progressed. I visited often twice a year on various missions and to attend conferences and give presentations. I was a regular visitor to dear colleagues in the field of geriatrics at Ichilov and Soroka hospitals. I remain in touch with close friends and colleagues in Israel, mostly these days via email, Zoom and WhatsApp.
Following an illness, which was the result of collective multiple illnesses often associated with aging, I had to forgo my driver’s license, I started using Ubers. I retrieved my license but after having given a second car to our daughter, it resulted in my wife being the prime user of our sole care and Uber is my mode of transportation to and from meetings and work which I retuned to after a period of retirement from medical practice. I had been forced to retire because of my illnesses but on recovery I recovered my medical license and resumed part-time work. As a frequent Uber passenger, I’ve met drivers from all over the world- many are immigrants or refugees, and all have stories. As I writer I love to hear their tales, sometimes of woe and often of success. I try to encourage them and tell them that I know that they will succeed- that is the main story of Canada and its immigrant and refugee story. I have no hesitation telling them that I lived in Israel and most, including drivers from Iran, India, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Africa, are keen to know about me and my experiences.
Last week was the best of my experiences. I always ask the driver after I get in the vehicle and I hear their accent and see their name, where they are from and how long they have been in Canada. This man said, “Eritrea, have you heard of it?” I responded “yes, because I lived in Israel and knew many Ethiopians, and know that there have been conflicts between the two countries.” When he heard me say “Israel” he broke into Hebrew and told me how much he loved the county. “I was there as an undocumented person, for 15 years, but was always treated well.” I love the people; I love what they stand for.” He said he was an Orthodox Christian and loves Judaism. He gave his opinion about the current war. “They are crazy- Hamas doesn’t care about the Palestinians. They just want to kill, kill, kill”. I asked him about his future. “After I get my Canadian citizenship, I will be allowed to visit Israel legally and maybe I can find a way to stay. I would love to live there forever and raise my family there if I could. If not, at least to visit for long periods. I miss it so much. It is not that I don’t like Canada, it is a wonderful country- but Israel it is in my soul.”
I told him that he made my day and gave me an emotional lift-I could only give him five stars (and a handsome tip) on the Uber evaluation- as there is no place for ten. We parted with “Shalom Aleichem”.